Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 2, 2012

Man cleared of dog bite assault charge

Complaint about illegal burn prompted police visit


TRAVERSE CITY — Jurors acquitted an East Bay Township man who was charged with assault after a dog in his care bit a sheriff's deputy.

It took a jury a bit more than an hour to find Clyde Rex Robuck III not guilty of a count of assaulting, resisting or obstructing an officer causing injury and a count of failing to keep his dog vaccinated.

A large, black dog that weighs about 100 pounds bit a deputy who arrived at Robuck's home on June 26 to investigate an illegal burn complaint.

Robuck couldn't be reached for comment. Jurors likely acquitted him because the prosecution wasn't able to prove he deliberately sent the dog after the officer, defense attorney Craig Elhart said.

Before trial, Robuck told authorities he kept the dogs for protection. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jim Pappas believes there was enough evidence to convict Robuck.

"I respectfully disagree with the jury's final determination," he said. "I believe, considering all of the circumstances, that he did have control of the dog and it was his intent" for the dog to hurt the deputy.

Robuck was belligerent and agitated during much of the trial, Pappas, Elhart and court officials said. He took the stand and loudly argued with Pappas during questioning, and yelled at the deputy while the deputy was on the stand.

Deputy Matt Jerome and a firefighter went to Robuck's residence in response to a complaint that Robuck illegally burned trash, a police report said, and they saw smoke wafting from the property's back yard.

Jerome walked to the front door and saw two dogs inside barking at him. He said he yelled through open windows multiple times, but no one responded.

Jerome walked into the back yard, continued to yell for the homeowner, and found an unattended fire. He then saw Robuck inside the house walking toward him.

Jerome told Robuck he was a sheriff's deputy and needed to speak with him, and seconds later two dogs burst from the house, he said.

One of the dogs clamped down on Jerome's forearm and didn't let go.

He drew his gun, pointed it at the dog and told Robuck he'd have to shoot the dog. Robuck ran over, pushed Jerome's right arm, grabbed the dog and put it in a garage.

Firefighters determined Robuck's fire was legal, and Jerome went to an urgent care center for treatment of the bite, which left several cuts and abrasions. The same dog that bit the deputy also bit a firefighter who investigated a burn complaint about a year ago, reports indicate.

Undersheriff Nate Alger, who wasn't involved in the trial, said the incident easily could have turned south for the dog.

"The officer ... showed great restraint in not shooting the dog, and I believe he had every right to shoot the dog," Alger said.

The dog's vaccinations weren't up to date, but Robuck during trial claimed the dog is owned by someone else, and as such vaccination responsibilities weren't his. The dog was sent to an acquaintance's house and was not seized by authorities.